Joint Statement From Attorney General Cuomo And State Education Commissioner Mills

NEW YORK, NY (May 5, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the introduction of legislation to combat the creation, distribution, and sale of illegally recorded movies in New York State. The legislation has been endorsed by the leaders of both the New York State Senate and Assembly and will reduce film piracy through expanded enforcement by the Attorney General’s Office and tougher penalties for offenders. Cuomo was joined at a press conference by the actress Tina Fey and others from the film and television industry.

According to recent industry reports, over 50% of all illegally recorded movies are filmed in New York. Once films are recorded, they are then often distributed nationwide by organized crime syndicates. Despite this fact, New York State only charges illegal film recording as a violation, merely imposing a small fee on offenders.

The Piracy Protection Act brings the existing illegal recording statute up-to-date by making it a Class A misdemeanor to either illegally record a film or live performance or use an illegal recording for commercial purposes. First time offenders face the possibility of up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine and multiple repeat offenders will be charged with a felony, which brings even higher penalties.

“New York has become the hub for a criminal network dedicated to film piracy,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The wide distribution of pirated films originating from New York costs our state vital economic resources, including thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. We are all paying a price for the leniency given to this type of organized crime, and I will not let it continue on my watch.”

Cuomo also announced today that, in conjunction with this legislation, the Attorney General’s Office is creating a new Special Assistant Attorney General to coordinate local and state law enforcement efforts against film piracy. The Special Assistant Attorney General will work with the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), which investigates and prosecutes criminal networks that operate across county and state lines. This person will also work with local police and district attorneys to aggressively pursue emerging and existing organized crime enterprises that peddle pirated films across the state and country.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, “When someone participates in multimedia piracy, they are stealing from artists and hurting the entertainment industry that is such a large part of New York’s
economy. I commend the Attorney General, Senator Padavan and Senator Volker for putting forward legislation that sends a clear message that such piracy is a serious crime and that those who engage in video piracy will be held accountable for their actions.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “I am proud to be supporting this legislation to combat piracy in New York. This bill will help us address film piracy at its source and will be an effective deterrent to criminals who profit at the expense of our entertainment community. I commend Attorney General Cuomo for working with the legislature and offering an effective solution to this growing problem.”

Tina Fey, “As an actor, a writer and a New Yorker, it's discouraging to see the widespread effects piracy has had on our industry. Piracy is an issue that is often overlooked, but is one that has an enormous negative impact on every person who works in entertainment, from the stagehands, to the actors, to the producers and so on. It means a great deal to have our Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, speak out on behalf of all New Yorkers within the artistic community of this city and State. And remember, when you buy a DVD, you should not be able to see the heads of people watching it in a movie theater at the bottom of the screen.”

Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. said, “Motion picture piracy is a widespread problem that not only costs the film community billions of dollars but comes at a tremendous cost in terms of jobs and the overall economy of New York and the country. I am pleased Attorney General Cuomo recognizes the importance of this issue and is working hard to take it on.”

Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal, said, “The current tidal wave of counterfeiting and piracy undermines future growth and kills jobs in the entertainment industry and in all innovation-dependent sectors of the U.S. economy. Enhanced penalties and specialized, dedicated enforcement resources are key to fighting piracy and counterfeiting. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for this initiative, and in particular for his ground-breaking decision to create a specialized deputy in his office dedicated to fighting piracy. We believe this act of leadership is a model for modern law enforcement nationwide.”

New York State Senator Frank Padavan said, “Film and music piracy has quickly become a major part of the growing criminal counterfeit epidemic. Year after year, multimedia piracy has had an adverse impact on New York’s economy. This wave of criminal activity has cost the entertainment sector billions in income while leaving New York State with a significant loss in tax revenue. In order to effectively and proactively combat the emergence of multimedia piracy, we must enact legislation on the state level that will increase criminal penalties for these crimes and send a clear message that counterfeiting and piracy will no longer be tolerated in New York.”

New York State Senator Dale Volker said, “Let’s be clear, video piracy is not a victimless crime. Every pirated film from a theater in our state represents millions of lost dollars in state revenues that would otherwise used by local governments to pay for essential services, assist our school districts, or be reinvested for in-state productions. Additionally, the thousands of New Yorkers involved in the motion picture industry are at risk of being downsized based on these financial losses exacerbated by pirated films. This is unacceptable and it is why we must proactively deal with this crime and make those who perpetuate it responsible for their actions.”

New York State Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph R. Lentol said, “Piracy is a serious burden for New York City and New York State and individuals who illegally record films and performances in theaters should not get a free ride. This legislation is a critical tool to ensure that these criminals pay the price for their actions. I want to thank the Attorney General for working with us on this issue and for utilizing his office to be an important part of the enforcement of our piracy laws.”

New York Division President of Screen Actors Guild, Sam Freed said “The bottom line is that people who illegally record and sell bootleg videos are stealing from actors, which hurts actors and all workers in entertainment. Attorney General Cuomo has created a new Special Assistant Attorney General, a first-of-its-kind position to directly address this problem. I want to thank the Attorney General for his hard work and dedication to this issue.”

Russ Hollander, Eastern Executive Director of the Directors Guild of America, said “Piracy hurts all artists including our directors and their teams. It is very important for all of us that action is taken to prevent the rampant theft and distribution of pirated materials. Thanks to the efforts of Attorney General Cuomo, we will now have stronger legislation on the books and increased efforts of law enforcement to aggressively pursue those who engage in piracy.”

Thomas C. Short, International President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States Its Territories and Canada, said “The cost of piracy for our members cannot be understated. Every year millions and millions of dollars that would go to higher wages, new jobs, as well as healthcare and other benefits, are lost to a criminal network that profits from the sale of pirated materials. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for taking this
issue head on and standing up for workers in New York and across the country.”

Robert Sunshine, Executive Director of National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, said “Illegal piracy is rampant not just in Hollywood but all over New York City as well. Camcording in theatres all over the city are sold to bootleggers and are out on the street and online within a day of a movie opening and this causes severe economic problems for the movie theatre community. We are extremely grateful to Attorney General Cuomo for taking the lead on piracy and providing this much needed assistance to the entire entertainment industry.”

Film piracy has been devastating to the nation’s economy, eliminating potential jobs and earnings for U.S. workers and costing both national and state governments millions of dollars in uncollected tax revenues. A report by the Institute for Policy’s Innovation in 2006 found the following results:

  • Motion picture piracy costs U.S. workers $5.5 billion annually in lost earnings;
  • The cost of motion picture piracy prevented the creation of 141,030 new jobs;
  • Motion picture piracy costs governments at all levels $837 million in lost tax revenue.

Absent piracy, an additional $147 million in corporate income taxes from motion picture corporations, $91 million in other taxes on motion picture production or sales, and $599 million in personal income taxes from employees would have been paid annually to federal, state and local governments.

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